• Botanical Name: Aglaonema commutatum
  • Common Name: Aglaonema, Chinese evergreen
  • Plant Type: Evergreen perennial
  • Mature Size: 20 inches high
  • Sun Exposure: Low to bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Peat-based potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.6–6.5
  • Toxicity: Toxic to people; toxic to pets

Not to be confused with cacti; nearly all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

Succulent plants, also known as succulents, are planted with thickened, fleshy, and engorged parts, typically to retain water in arid climates or soil conditions. The word succulent is derived from the Latin word succus, which means "juice" or "sap."

Succulent plants can store water in a variety of structures, including leaves and stems. Some succulent organs have a water content of 90-95%. Some definitions include roots, so geophytes that survive adverse conditions by dying back to underground storage organs may be considered succulents. Succulents' habitats are often in areas with high temperatures and low rainfall, such as deserts, but they can also be found in alpine ecosystems growing in rocky soil. Succulents are distinguished by their ability to thrive on limited water sources such as mist and dew, making them well-suited to survival in an ecosystem with scarce water sources.

How to grow succulents

Grow succulent plants in full sun to partial shade in free-draining soil or compost, such as cactus compost. From spring to autumn, water sparingly, but avoid watering entirely in autumn and winter. Most succulents grow slowly. If you grow them in pots, repot them every couple of years into fresh compost.

Where to plant succulents

Succulents thrive in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Their fleshy leaves are designed to store water, allowing them to survive droughts. The majority prefer slightly acidic soil. Succulents will struggle to grow in heavy, poorly drained soils. Many people die during a cold and wet winter. As a result, they are perfectly suited to containers. These are much less likely to become waterlogged in the winter, and they can be moved undercover until spring in particularly wet areas.

Agaves are beautiful, but larger varieties, such as Agave americana, should be planted away from paths because the spiked leaves are extremely dangerous - especially to children, as they are frequently at eye level. Succulents thrive on the south or southeast-facing windowsill when grown as house plants.

How to plant succulents

Improve drainage before planting succulents in garden soil with horticultural grit. Planting too deeply will cause fleshy leaves to rot if they come into contact with wet soil.

Choose unglazed terracotta pots with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom when planting in containers, and add grit to the compost. Terracotta pots warm up quickly in the sun and are porous, so the compost dries out quickly after watering, making them ideal for drought-tolerant succulents. Because most succulents have fibrous roots, they can be planted in relatively shallow pots. When planting large succulents like agaves, use a soil-based compost because their roots require a heavier compost to anchor. When working with spiked agaves, wear gloves because the leaves are extremely sharp. Keep your eyes open.

Caring for succulents

Water succulents in containers no more than once a week during the summer. A good watering less frequently is preferable to a little-and-often technique. Reduce watering drastically in the autumn and winter, and keep container-grown, tender plants in a light, frost-free location. If this is not possible, place them under the eaves of the house and cover them with a protective garden fleece.

Once a year, in the spring, re-pot potted specimens. You don't have to pot them into a larger container, but fresh compost is always welcome. Succulents are not greedy plants, but when growing large specimens, a light scattering of fish, blood, and bone when potting on is often beneficial. Pruning is not necessary for succulents. If the foliage is damaged or dead, gently peel it away from the plant or cut it off with secateurs.

Water sparingly

Succulents have adapted to drought conditions. This means they don't require as much watering as other houseplants and can actually suffer from over-watering. Water most succulents only from spring to autumn, and let the compost dry between waterings. Some succulents, however, have more specific watering requirements; for example, lithops should be watered only in late spring, after the old leaves have died back. Before watering, always check the watering requirements of your succulents.

Provide plenty of light

Most succulents prefer a dry, well-lit environment. Some thrive in direct sunlight. Others, such as Haworthia truncata, prefer a slightly shaded location. Before purchasing individual succulents, always check their growing requirements. Furthermore, if your succulent appears unhappy in one location, try moving it to see if it does better elsewhere.

Mulch the compost

Adding mulch to succulent pots improves the arid appearance and prevents damp compost from coming into contact with the leaves, which can cause them to rot. Horticultural grit, shells, or another dry material can be used. Apply with a spoon and cover the entire compost.

Protect in winter

Most succulents are tender and must be brought indoors for the winter. Pots should ideally be moved into a greenhouse or conservatory. Some succulents can be left outside in a protected location (under an eave/by a wall), but only with bubble wrap around the pot to protect against frost.

How to propagate succulents

Many rosette-forming succulents, such as alpine sedums and sempervivums, readily produce small baby plants (offsets). These are easily snipped from the plant and potted on.

Growing succulents: problem solving

When growing succulents in pots, vine weevils are a common problem. The problem may be mitigated by growing in soil-based compost rather than peat-based compost. Mulching the compost with gravel or stones can also help to reduce infestation. To correct the situation, re-pot in the autumn and remove as much soil as possible. If you find grubs, either remove severely infested plants or quarantine them. In the autumn, use biological control, such as nematode application. If necessary, repeat the treatment in the spring.